Is The Human Hand Our Best Technology?

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Part 4 of the TED Radio Hour episode Do We Need Humans?

About Abraham Verghese's TEDTalk

Modern medicine is in danger of losing a powerful, old-fashioned tool: human touch. Physician and writer Abraham Verghese describes our strange new world where patients are data points, and calls for a return to the traditional physical exam.

"Only the hand can tell where it's tender, where the patient winces." — Abraham Verghese i i

"Only the hand can tell where it's tender, where the patient winces." — Abraham Verghese James Duncan Davidson/TED hide caption

itoggle caption James Duncan Davidson/TED
"Only the hand can tell where it's tender, where the patient winces." — Abraham Verghese

"Only the hand can tell where it's tender, where the patient winces." — Abraham Verghese

James Duncan Davidson/TED

About Abraham Verghese

In our era of the patient-as-data-point, Abraham Verghese believes in the old-fashioned physical exam, the bedside chat, the power of informed observation. Before he finished medical school, Abraham Verghese spent a year on the other end of the medical pecking order, as a hospital orderly. Moving unseen through the wards, he saw the patients with new eyes, as human beings rather than collections of illnesses. The experience has informed his work as a doctor — and as a writer. "Imagining the Patient's Experience" was the motto of the Center for Medical Humanities & Ethics, which he founded at the University of Texas San Antonio, where he brought a deep-seated empathy. He's now a professor for the Theory and Practice of Medicine at Stanford, where his old-fashioned weekly rounds have inspired a new initiative, the Stanford 25, teaching 25 fundamental physical exam skills and their diagnostic benefits to interns. He's also the author of a number of books, including his most recent, Cutting For Stone.

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